Create an Underwater Background Using Photoshop Filters

In this tutorial I’ll show you how to use Photoshop filters to create an underwater background that you can use for your own artwork.


Final Image

Create an Underwater Background Using Photoshop Filters

Tutorial Details

  • Program : Photoshop CS3 +
  • Estimated Completion Time : 15-20 minutes
  • Difficulty : Beginner

Step 1

Create a new document in Photoshop, set your own size and fill it with any color you like. I used a file of 1200×1288 px. Go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color and pick a cyan color ( I chose #40bfda ):

Create an Underwater Background Using Photoshop Filters 1
Create an Underwater Background Using Photoshop Filters 2

Step 2

I used an adjustment layer to darken the canvas. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves :

Create an Underwater Background Using Photoshop Filters 3

On this Curves layer mask, active the Brush Tool (B ). Use a basic,soft brush with black color, the opacity about 15-20% to paint on the mask to reveal some light on the top ( we’ll add the light source there).

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Create an Underwater Background Using Photoshop Filters 5

Step 3

I used a Levels adjustment layer to increase the contrast and light of the image:

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Create an Underwater Background Using Photoshop Filters 7

Step 4

In this step we’ll add texture to this scene. If you look closely at some underwater photographs, especially the ones taken in natural environment, you’ll see the noise, debris, plankton, etc…To imitate this effect, I made a new layer on the top and fill it with black. Convert this layer to a Smart Object and go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise :

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Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the radius to 1.5 px:

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Change this layer mode to Screen 5% and we have a very soft noisy look. Here is a close-up of the image bottom:

Create an Underwater Background Using Photoshop Filters 10

Step 5

To add some debris and plankton to the scene, I duplicated the noise layer and increased the opacity to maximum (100% ):

Create an Underwater Background Using Photoshop Filters 11

Add a mask to this layer and use a soft black brush to reduce some noisy parts as shown below:

Create an Underwater Background Using Photoshop Filters 12

Step 6

I used a Levels adjustment layer with Clipping Mask to reduce the noise intensity:

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Here are two close-ups of the result:

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Create an Underwater Background Using Photoshop Filters 15

Step 7

To make more light on the top, create a new layer, use a soft white brush to paint there. Change this layer mode to Overlay 100% :

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Create an Underwater Background Using Photoshop Filters 17

Step 8

In this step we’ll make the water surface. Press D to turn the background and foreground color to default (black and white). Go to Filter > Render > Clouds :

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Convert this layer to a Smart Object . Use the Free Transform Tool (Cmd/Ctrl+T) to transform it as shown below:

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Use a layer mask to soften its edges :

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